Shortly before 5 p.m. on Feb. 5, after the Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump on impeachment charges, the House managers lined up and were guided out the doors of the Senate, having failed to convict the president but enjoying a journey they almost certainly will never experience again.
“We were like congregational returning citizens, over to the House of Representatives, and then, we were liberated from our responsibility over in the Senate,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) recalled of the short walk from the Senate to the House.
They made a brief stop in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and by 5:30 p.m. that day they were back on the House floor voting on the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act, a fairly noncontroversial bill that was approved by a more than 6-to-1 margin.
On Wednesday, exactly one week after the Senate acquittal, the House passed a wilderness lands package that includes a provision that Schiff has been pushing almost since the day he first arrived in the Capitol in 2001, a bill to expand park lands outside Santa Monica. That comes on top of the House and Senate passage of a congressional resolution condemning Armenian genocide early last century, another decades-long effort for a lawmaker with a large Armenian population in his Los Angeles County district.
The House approved the Armenian resolution in late October, just as Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, was poised to begin public hearings with current and former Trump administration officials who would outline the president’s campaign to pressure Ukrainian officials into investigating domestic political rivals.
On Dec. 12, the day before the House Judiciary Committee approved the two articles of impeachment, the Senate passed the Armenian resolution on a unanimous vote. Schiff didn’t even realize it was happening at the time.
In the past few days, he met with the Armenian ambassador to talk about what he had accomplished. “With so much going on, we didn’t have a real opportunity to savor the passage of the resolution as much as we would have ordinarily,” Schiff said.
His next focus is on issues related to homelessness, helicopter noise and providing more food options at community colleges.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the managers, returned to work as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and as chair of the House Administration Committee, which held a hearing Tuesday on Native American voting rights.
Two managers, Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.), have returned to life as freshman lawmakers, where they hold high-profile assignments on committees but must wait hours to speak at hearings.
Garcia is 18th in seniority on the Judiciary Committee; Crow is 22nd on the Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose wife’s battle with cancer caused him to miss some of the impeachment trial, remains in the thick of administration investigations as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
He is the leading advocate for issuing a subpoena to John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who has never testified about the allegation that Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine as leverage in seeking investigations. The Senate, on a mostly party-line vote, rejected hearing from Bolton and other witnesses.
But Pelosi is wary of appearing to furiously investigate the administration rather than focusing on their “For the People” agenda that they touted in the 2018 midterm elections that delivered them the majority.
“We will continue to aggressively pursue our oversight responsibilities, whenever and wherever possible. But fundamentally, at this point in time, the most important thing that we as House Democrats can continue to do is keep our focus on kitchen-table, pocketbook issues,” Jeffries told reporters at Tuesday’s news conference after the weekly caucus meeting.
He suggested that the 2020 elections were the only sure way to defeat Trump. “This is all now in the hands of the American people,” Jeffries said.
He has returned to his full-time role as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, a lieutenant in Pelosi’s leadership team, a job for which he had to give up some responsibilities during the trial.
The managers had little time for socializing or other tasks during the trial. “We literally went from the presentation on the Senate floor, to preparation into the night, and the early morning, back to presentation on the Senate floor,” Jeffries explained in an interview Tuesday.
He is trying to plan a dinner party where all seven managers can attend as a thank-you to the staff members who served on the trial.
For now, their profiles are a bit higher, none more so than Schiff, who has been the target of Trump’s taunts at rallies and on Twitter. It has created a situation in which he is often recognized in public, just as he was Tuesday off the House floor by a stranger who wanted to thank him for his work. But some encounters are much tougher.
“Either the reaction is very, very positive, or the reaction is negative — it’s very, very negative,” he said.
Over the weekend, Schiff and his wife found an escape at the movies. They saw one film that epitomized another deep clash of times — “1917,” the best-picture Oscar nominee about World War I — and another that was more of an escape: “The Gentlemen,” a Guy Ritchie film about an American expatriate who is a drug dealer in London.
Schiff watched on TV from the House cloakroom as Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah announced, two hours before the final roll calls, that he would be the only Republican to vote to convict Trump.
Two days before, in his closing remarks, Schiff pleaded for “even a single vote” from a Republican that would signal David could take on Goliath.
As the House managers left the Senate, they were a group of Davids who had not slain a giant.
“Walking back, we were proud of the case we put on. We were in awe of the courage that Mitt Romney and others showed,” Schiff said.